The Oracle : Can you describe the sound of Fitz and the Tantrums?
James King : Our sound is kind of an amalgam of different eras in music. When the band first started, we caught a lot of attention for being a Motown soul revival act. And that was partly on purpose and partly something that we got stuck with, having wrote a lot of structured songs with saxophone and things that people hadn’t been doing for a while.
With the new record, we have extended that sound into more of a ’80s type, electronic experience. There are a lot of soul elements still thrown in there. Now it’s more of a party-like atmosphere, which comes a lot from our live show, which pretty much defines our sound now.
O: What can listeners expect when they attend the show Wednesday?
JK: A lot of jumping around and singing along. A lot of audience participation. We like to involve as many people as we can as part of our show. If you’re in the room with us, it’s like you’re part of the band. So we’re not doing the same show every night, we are reacting to all of the people in the room getting involved. That’s what the audience should expect — a party.
O: What made you guys choose such a unique genre?
JK: I don’t know if that was an active decision. It is really just the combined influences of what all of us grew up with coming out in our writing. I think it is very rare that one of us sits down and says, “OK, I’m going to write a doo-wop song, or I’m going to write a hip-hop song,”
… It also comes from years of me playing and listening to the kind of music I am into and Noelle (Scaggs) bringing her thing to the table. And then John, the drummer, bringing his influences to the table.
It’s a manifestation of all of the things we have grown up with, blended together. You can hear all of our personalities in our writing. If you hear a throwback song that sounds like a certain artist, from back in the day, you are really hearing all of the stuff that we dig.
O: What musicians influence you?
JK: Oh man, that is going to take a long time. I grew up with two musical parents, my dad the guitarist and my mother was a cellist. None of that has been lost over my training.
I still listen to jazz and classical music and all of the stuff I grew up with. I had a big foundation with the Beatles and Stevie Wonder. My iPod has a lot of ’90s electronic, indie stuff like Stereolab and also a lot of rock bands like the Pixies. A mixture of so many things. When I was kid it was all about Michael Jackson and when I was in college it was NY hip-hop.
My musical taste has been all over the map. I don’t want to be put into one type of category, or defined by one thing. The band comes from that. It’s such a mismatch of so many things.
O: What is your song-writing process?
JK: On our latest album, when we were previously touring, we had a lot of downtime. During sound check, we would experiment with different grooves, different loops and we would just play and one of us would say “oh that was great, we should make a song out of that.”
It would be the jam of the day, and then it would eventually turn into a new song. That was the foundation of how we started making the second album. We had hours and hours of sound check jams and just combined them all and started writing lyrics.
When we were writing this album, “More Than Just a Dream,” we brought so many things to the table and ended up with 40 different song ideas. We put them all together and picked out the stronger material and went from there. The process was both collaborative and people taking on their own material.
O: What has it been like to be on tour with Bruno Mars?
JK: We were so intimidated after the first show. Bruno’s show was so over-the-top and amazing, we knew we had to step up our game. Bruno commands an audience like nobody else. So we really aspire to perform that kind of show. It was great that we saw that the first night and
realized, “OK, now we have to bring that kind of energy.”
O: Who is your favorite band to tour with?
JK: Everyone who we have gone out and opened for has been very gracious. We’re indebted to Maroon 5. When we were first12